20 Feb 2023
 | 20 Feb 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Short-term response of benthic foraminifera to fine sediment depositional events simulated in microcosm

Corentin Guilhermic, Maria Pia Nardelli, Aurélia Mouret, Damien Le Moigne, and Hélène Howa

Abstract. A microcosm experiment was designed to describe how benthic foraminifera react to fine sediment deposits varying in frequency and intensity, as it may occur regularly or occasionally in coastal benthic environments, caused by discharges from (e.g.) river flooding, tidewater glacier melting in polar regions or diverse anthropic activities linked to harbour or watershed management. The influence of seabed burial resulting from these events on the ecology of benthic ecosystems is often overlooked, and the resilience of benthic communities is poorly known. During a 51-day long experiment, a typical northeastern Atlantic intertidal foraminiferal community, mainly represented by Ammonia confertitesta and Haynesina germanica species, was subjected to two kinds of sedimentary disturbance: 1) one-time high volume (OHV) deposit, i.e. about 3 cm thick sediment added in one time at the beginning of the experiment; and 2) frequent low volume (FLV) deposits, i.e. about 0.5 cm added each week for 4 weeks. The geochemical environment (e.g. dissolved oxygen penetration in the sediment, salinity, temperature and nutrient content in the supernatant water) was monitored to follow the microcosm steady state before and during the experiment. In both disturbed microcosms, H. germanica showed a significant linear decrease in abundance during the experiment while the total abundance of foraminifera was significantly affected only by the OHV treatment, suggesting a stronger effect of a single thick deposit on standing stocks and biodiversity compared to frequent low sediment supplies. Concerning the vertical migration of foraminifera after sedimentary disturbances, the two dominant species moved upwards to the water- sediment interface with migration speeds estimated at 0.41 and 0.47 mm/h respectively for A. confertitesta and H. germanica. In the FLV treatment, the resilient state was already reached within the day following a low thickness burial while in the OHV it was achieved between 1 and 7 days after the 3 cm thick deposit. These results suggest that foraminifera can migrate rapidly after a sedimentary burial to recover their preferential life position under the new sediment-water interface, but in case of an abrupt thick burial, several days are needed to reach a resilient state.

Corentin Guilhermic et al.

Status: open (until 23 Apr 2023)

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Corentin Guilhermic et al.

Corentin Guilhermic et al.


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Short summary
Coastal seas experience sediment discharges which intensity and frequency can strongly be affected by human activities and climate change. We analysed the response of benthic species in an experimental set up. After the burial under a single thick layer of sediment or multiple thin layers at different times, the analysed species migrate rapidly toward the surface. A stronger effect of a single thick deposit on standing stocks and biodiversity is visible compared to frequent low sediment inputs.